In the recent case of Robert & Golden [2011] FamCA 443 the Family Court of Australia (“the Court”) held that the marriage between Mr Robert and Ms Golden was null and void.

A declaration that a marriage is null and void, also known as a declaration of nullity, is a finding by the Court that the marriage was invalid. This means that the marriage is regarded as having never taken place, even though a marriage ceremony may have taken place. A court may declare a marriage to be null and void on a number of grounds, including as Mr Roberts claimed, where one party claims to have been forced into the marriage under duress.

Ms Golden did not appear in the matter before the Court and she did not file any evidence in response to Mr Robert’s application to have the marriage declared null and void. Mr Robert’s evidence was that in about September 2010 Ms Golden informed him that she was pregnant. Mr Robert responded by asking her to terminate the pregnancy as “we don’t want a child”. Importantly, Ms Golden is said to have stated “I’m possibly not going to terminate the pregnancy unless you marry me”.

Mr Robert’s evidence was that he only consented to marrying Ms Golden because he felt he had no other choice in that Ms Golden was adamant that she would not terminate the pregnancy unless they were married. Mr Robert and Ms Golden were married in November 2010 and the termination of the pregnancy occurred shortly after their marriage.

Mr Robert’s relationship with Ms Golden continued until Christmas Day 2010. They have lived separate and apart since that time and Mr Robert stated that “ … but for the fact that the respondent would not terminate her pregnancy unless I married her I would never have married her.”

The Court declared the marriage null and void, but observed that this was a “borderline case” and that the result may have been different had the application been defended by Ms Golden.

View the full judgement